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Challenges and Opportunities for the Pulp and Paper Industry

By: , Posted on: June 26, 2018

The pulp and paper industry supplies paper to more than 5 billion people worldwide. Originally, pulp and papermaking was a slow and labour-intensive process but today these processes are driven by capital-intensive equipment and high-tech and high-speed paper machines.

Paper products have enabled literacy and cultural development, so are crucial to society. Around the world, mills are producing more than 400 million tons of paper per year. This creates jobs but contributes to deforestation. Paper is used for several purposes.

The global production of paper and board was approximately 407 million metric tons in 2015. One third of the production was attributable to graphic paper and more than half of that production was attributable to packaging paper. Global paper consumption in 2020 is expected to amount to 500 million tons. The three largest paper producing countries in the world are China, the United States, and Japan and account for half of the  total paper production in the world. Germany and the United States are the leading paper importing and exporting countries. China’s production of processed paper and cardboard had ranged at about 10.68 million tons in April 2018. With some 407.5 million metric tons of paper consumed globally in 2014, the world’s paper consumption is roughly equal to the amount of paper produced annually. China is the world’s largest paper and paperboard consumer in the world, using more than 103 million metric tons annually, followed by the U.S. with a consumption rate of more than 71 million metric tons. North America, however, has world’s highest per capita consumption of paper of any region, consuming 221 kilograms per capita, which is given context when compared to the world average per capita consumption of paper of just 57 kilograms per year.

Since paper can be classified as a renewable resource, recovery is crucial within the paper industry. Paper, among many materials, has one of the highest recycling rates. In 2013, around 233 million metric tons of recovered paper was collected worldwide. In the United States, more than 52 million short tons of paper and paperboard are recovered annually. The paper and paperboard recovery rate in the U.S. was 66.8 percent in 2015, which is more than double the 1990 recovery rate of less than 34 per

Global paper and board production increased by 1.0% in 2014 to reach a new record level of 406.5 million tons, in spite of a continuous decrease in North America and Europe. Positive growth in the cases of packaging and tissue grades continued to counteract the retreat in global graphic paper production. China has maintained the top position for both production and demand of total paper and board since 2009; the United States remained in second place. China accounted for 25% of global demand and 26% of global production of total paper and board in 2014.

The Global Pulp and Paper industry has contracted slightly over the past five years, mainly due to the transition to digital media and paperless communication across most developed countries .The manufacturing booms in several emerging markets have partially compensated the decline by driving increased demand for paper used in packaging materials. The industry is now shifting its focus toward packaging materials and sanitary products, the two most promising segments for growth. Industry revenue is expected to resume slow expansion over the next five years, though growth in developing markets will surpass revenue increases in Europe and the United States. The global paper and printing market has been estimated at USD $1270 billion. It dropped down −6% in 2015 versus 2014.

Paper products are used in a variety of applications, from paper for writing to paperboard as packaging material. The pulp and paper industry although energy intensive has low carbon intensity as biomass, which is considered carbon neutral, dominates the fuel mix. However, if the sector is to achieve its long term decarbonisation goals, increased adoption of Best Available Technologies and energy efficiency measures is required in addition to continued fuel switching and break-through technologies

The pulp and paper industry is important for several reasons. Due to improved process efficiency, the industry has become more self-sufficient in energy and less carbon dioxide-intensive by generating more than half of its primary energy from biomass. The annual turnover in Europe from the production of pulp, and packaging, graphic, hygienic, and speciality paper grades and products is around EUR 180 billion. Voluntary industry initiatives and legislative measures, have resulted in a Paper recycling rate exceeding 70% in Europe. Raw materials used in the production of paper and board are derived from sustainable sources. The high level of expertise and research and development permit these industries to, develop novel products and technologies, use new business models and progress toward a low-carbon bioeconomy. According to the American Forest and Paper Association, The United States paper and forest products industry’s private, working forests support 2.5 million jobs and generate $235 billion in annual sales,. The Forest Products Industry in The United States is employing more than 100,000 workers and comprises around 150 companies producing over $80 billion in revenue. Careful management of forest resources has helped in keeping the industry stable and even increased total forest area by 2 million acres in the first part of the 20th century

Pulp and Paper industry is facing several challenges: The demand for domestic wood supplies by end-users such as bioenergy companies is increasing. Increasing the mobilisation of wood in a sustainable manner and developing new technologies for further optimising the added value from raw materials through the cascading use of wood (cascading contributes to more resource efficiency and consequently reduce pressure on the environment) would help to match wood supply and demand. Due to digitalisation, the consumption of graphic paper is reducing. But, this is counter-balanced by growth in packaging and hygiene papers. The manufacture of bio-based products is creating huge opportunities for the sector. The industry is increasing its share of exports outside but tariff barriers and protectionist subsidies for competitive products create an uneven playing field. Export duties and taxes on wood exports are raising concerns. For instance, fibrous raw material represents the highest share of production costs, and so its availability at affordable prices is very important for the sector. In Europe, the paper recycling rate is very close to its maximum. Improvements in collection systems and new sorting and recycling technology can further increase the quality and availability of secondary raw materials. The supply may also be challenged by the increasing amount of recovered paper exports to non-European countries.

Increase of energy prices in Europe, combined with increase of gas prices compared to North America, place the sector at a global competitive disadvantage. The energy, environmental, and transport policies will have a significant effect on the future of the sector. A good regulatory framework is important to support sustainable growth and investor certainty.

The opportunities for the paper and pulp industries are resource efficiency and bioeconomy. The continuous improvements in technology can further reduce environmental impacts and optimise the use of resources. New processes may offer innovative ways to develop new applications and products based on cellulose fibre generating more value. Breakthrough technologies, for example those reducing the use of heat in paper production through reduced water consumption, are needed to obtain the sector’s objectives for the 2050 Roadmap towards a low-carbon bio-economy. These objectives include an 80% reduction in carbon dioxide and 50% value growth by 2050. The industry is taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the bioeconomy. New business concepts will permit the industry to use the full potential of wood and wood fibre to produce products and novel materials for the food, textile, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries; chemicals and bio-based fuels and traditional wood-based products.

Biermann’s Handbook of Pulp and Paper: Raw Material and Pulp Making, Third Edition is a comprehensive reference for industry and academia covering the entire gamut of pulping technology. Alongside the traditional aspects of pulping and papermaking processes, this book also focuses on biotechnological methods, which is the distinguishing feature of this book. It includes wood-based products and chemicals, production of dissolving pulp, hexenuronic acid removal, alternative chemical recovery processes, forest products biorefinery.


Biermann’s Handbook of Pulp and Paper: Paper and Board Making, Third Edition provides a thorough introduction to paper and board making, providing paper technologists with recent information. The book emphasizes principles and concepts behind papermaking, detailing both the physical and chemical processes. Paper and pulp processing and additive chemicals are an integral part of the total papermaking process from pulp slurry, through sheet formation, to effluent disposal.

Need a copy of your own? Save 30% on Enter discount code STC317 at checkout.

Dr. Pratima Bajpai is currently working as a Consultant in the field of Paper and Pulp. She has a vast 36 years of experience in this field. She has worked at National Sugar Institute Kanpur (India), University of Saskatchewan (Canada), University of Western Ontario (Canada), and Thapar Center for Industrial Research and Development (India). Dr. Bajpai’s main areas of expertise are industrial biotechnology, pulp and paper, and environmental biotechnology. She has contributed immensely to the field of industrial biotechnology and is a recognized expert in the field. Dr. Bajpai has written several advanced level technical books on environmental and biotechnological aspects of pulp and paper which have been published by leading publishers in the USA and Europe. She has also contributed chapters to a number of books and encyclopedia, obtained 11 patents, written several technical reports, and has implemented several processes in Indian Paper mills. Dr. Bajpai is an active member of the American Society of Microbiologists and is a reviewer of many international research journals. She has also handled several Sponsored Research Projects from industry and government agencies. She is an active member of the New York Academy of Science, American Society for Microbiology, and many more.

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